Category Archives: The Moon

Oh What a Relief! Cool 3D Views of the Moon via LROC

Red/cyan anaglyph of Hell Q crater on the Moon's near side  (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

Red/blue anaglyph of Hell Q crater on the Moon’s near side (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

Do you have any of those paper 3D viewers around? You know, with the red and blue lenses? If so, pop ‘em on and check out the image above from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) showing the crater “Hell Q,” located on the Moon’s southern near side near the brightly-rayed Tycho. You might think a crater was just carved into your screen!

The 3.75-km-wide Hell Q is one of a cluster of 19 craters located around the main 32.5-km Hell crater. (And no, it wasn’t named after a realm of the afterworld but rather for Hungarian astronomer Maximillian Hell.)

The image was acquired on April 11, 2014. You can see a larger 3D view of the region around Hell Q below.

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Three Worlds, One Shot: a February 2015 Conjunction Event

Conjunction of the Moon, Venus, and Mars on Feb. 20, 2015. © Jason Major.

Conjunction of the Moon, Venus, and Mars on Feb. 20, 2015. © Jason Major.

Did you have clear skies last night? If so, you may have been able to catch the sight above: a conjunction of the crescent Moon and the planets Venus and Mars in the western sky!

I captured the photo above with a Nikon D7000 and a Sigma 150-500mm lens. Venus is the brighter object at left, Mars appears dimmer and redder above. Part of the Moon’s “dark side” can be seen due to Earthshine – sunlight reflected off Earth onto the Moon. (Sometimes romantically called “the old Moon in the new Moon’s arms.”)

Although the worlds were only within a degree or two of each other in the sky they were in reality very far apart (obviously). The actual distances from Earth to each at the time of the event? Moon: 363,784 km; Venus: 213 million km; Mars: 329.1 million km.

Check out this and other images in my Flickr gallery here.

Neil Armstrong Had a Man Purse and It Was Full of Awesome Stuff From His Moon Trip. True Story.

Neil Armstrong leading the Apollo 11 crew to the Astrovan on July 16, 1969 (NASA/KSC)

Neil Armstrong leading the Apollo 11 crew to the Astrovan on July 16, 1969 (NASA/KSC)

So we all know that Neil Armstrong was pretty much one of the coolest guys ever and, on July 20, 1969, achieved a level of awesomeness that will never be surpassed.* Sadly, the 82-year-old Armstrong passed away on Aug. 25, 2012 due to complications from surgery. But he left us with the memory of one of humankind’s most lofty achievements and gave face, voice, and heart to the unflagging need of our species to continually reach further and explore.

An Apollo-era TSB, or McDivitt purse Credit: Air and Space Museum)

An Apollo-era TSB, or McDivitt purse (Credit: Air and Space Museum)

Now, it turns out that he even left a little bit more that that. After his passing, Neil’s wife Carol found a white cloth bag in one of his closets and contacted National Air and Space Museum curator Allan Needell about it. Called a TSB (Temporary Stowage Bag) or, more colloquially, a “McDivitt purse,” Neil’s bag was filled with various objects that had been used during the Apollo 11 mission and, thankfully, not left aboard the LM to crash into the lunar surface before the astronauts began their trip back home. For a curator of space artifacts this was a windfall – here were 18 flown items from the most famous spaceflight mission ever, collected and held on to for 43 years by the first man on the Moon!

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What Do Lunar Phases Look Like From the Other Side of the Moon?

We’ve all seen the Moon go through its phases over the course of a month’s time (give or take a day or two) as it travels in its orbit around the Earth, and you may have even seen the cool animation from the NASA Goddard Visualization Studio showing an entire year’s worth of lunar phases. But have you ever wondered what the Moon might look like from the other side as it goes around our planet? Thanks to a new visualization from NASA Goddard (using mapping data acquired by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) you can get a pretty good idea.
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Remembering the Tragedy of Apollo 1

This is a reprint of a post from 2013, updated for the date and now including a map of the lunar farside.
Apollo 1 astronauts Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Edward H. White II and Roger B. Chaffee in front of Launch Complex 34 at Kennedy Space Center on January 17, 1967 (NASA/KSC)

Apollo 1 astronauts Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II and Roger B. Chaffee in front of Launch Complex 34 at Kennedy Space Center on January 17, 1967 (NASA/KSC)

Today marks the 48th anniversary of one of the worst tragedies to befall NASA and human spaceflight: the fire that broke out in the Apollo 204 (later renamed Apollo 1) command module during a test exercise at Kennedy Space Center in 1967, claiming the lives of primary crew astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee.

While it’s certainly not a pleasant thing to think upon, the Apollo 1 catastrophe still had an undeniable impact on NASA’s Moon mission. Although it resulted in the death of three talented young men in the prime of their careers it did demand engineers to redesign the Apollo spacecraft with more safety in mind which, ultimately, contributed to the success of the entire program. Without these redesigns, the Moon landings may not have succeeded just a couple of years later. Despite the horror of the event, Grissom, White and Chaffee’s deaths were not in vain.

The following is a full account of the Apollo 1 fire, as told on the NASA history site.

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Here’s the Last Moon of 2014

The waxing gibbous Moon at dusk on Dec. 31, 2014.

The waxing gibbous Moon at dusk on Dec. 31, 2014.

Here’s the last Moon of 2014 and she’s a beauty! I love the light on the mountainous rim of Sinus Iridum along the northern terminator, the remains of a 3.7-billion-year-old lava-filled crater aka the “Bay of Rainbows.” Thanks to all of my readers and fans for following along throughout 2014, and here’s to yet another exciting space-filled year ahead. Happy New Year!

Want to find out what my favorite space stories for each month in 2014 were? Click here.

Image credit: Jason Major

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